MANILA - Abu Sayyaf top leader Isnilon Hapilon is still in Marawi, the Palace said Sunday, amid reports that the terrorist had been spotted in Basilan.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said military assessments show that Hapilon is still in the war-torn city as the battle for Marawi enters its final stretch.
"Recent military assessments indicate that he is still very much in Marawi. Our forces are hot on their heels and it will only be a matter of time before we get him," he said.
Abella said reports that Hapilon has already fled to Basilan have yet to be validated, adding that the government treats these reports as "raw information."
"We treat numerous reports saying that Isnilon Hapilon has left Marawi and has been seen openly in Basilan as raw information requiring further validation," he said.
"Granting Isnilon Hapilon’s whereabouts in Basilan is true, it would mean that he chose to abandon his men as the battle of Marawi nears its final stretch," he added.
Hapilon and his men from the Abu Sayyaf group have been reportedly helping the Maute terrorists in the siege of Marawi, which started last May.
As of August 31, 2017, 620 Maute terrorists have been killed in Marawi City. However, 136 soldiers and 45 civilians have also been killed in the battle.